Can a temper be inherited? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Can a temper be inherited?” and explore the various aspects of temper and genes to help understand the answer. 

Can a temper be inherited?

Yes, a temper can be inherited. The following are 3 insights into how a temper can be inherited –

  • Genes and evolution.
  • MAOA gene.  
  • Environment and experiences. 

What are these 3 insights into how a temper can be inherited?

Genes and evolution.

Some of us are more prone to anger than others, but the reasons for our rage aren’t always obvious. 

If you’re having trouble understanding why you respond with anger, knowing your genetics as well as the behaviours you learned as a youngster may help.

According to some research, genes impact a person’s anger 50% of the time, “but many twin studies show genes account for 20% to 35% of anger.”

That’s a significant disparity, but considering the paucity of research on the issue, it’s not unexpected. When research is available, it is usually focused on one gender. 

For example, a 2007 research from the University of Pittsburgh examined over 500 women to see if certain genetic markers might be used to predict angry or violent behaviour. 

“Those with one or both of two changes in the promoter area of the serotonin receptor 2C gene were more likely to score lower on two popular measures for anger, hostility, and aggressiveness,” according to the study.

Aggression is genetic, as scientists have known for decades. Self-control, on the other hand, is a biological layer to those furious outbursts. 

People who are genetically inclined to aggressiveness strive hard to regulate their anger but have poor functioning in brain areas that govern emotions, according to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

To put it another way, self-control is partly biological. Genetic theories for social behaviour are controversial — and rightfully so. 

The idea that some of our relationships with other people are influenced by our ancestors goes against democratic countries’ “all people are created equal” or “fair go” mentality.

Aggression is one social behaviour that has a very strong genetic base, whether we like it or not.

Aggression is still with us now because it helped our forefathers live and reproduce in the past. People typically had to protect themselves from violence, or the fear of violence, and obtain resources through raiding and battle before there was third-party justice, such as the police.

All humans lived as hunter-gatherers until around 12,000 years ago, and hunter-gatherer culture was rife with violence.

Hunter-gatherer men who committed acts of violence had more children, according to research performed decades ago by anthropologists who lived among unusually violent hunter-gatherers. As a result, we may all be here today as a result of ancestral bloodshed.

Through twin research, we can still detect traces of our evolutionary past. According to this research, nearly half of the variance in aggression is inherited. 

Since the sequencing of the human genome, scientists have been able to look at variations in individual genes involved in neurotransmitter function to see whether there is a link between aggression and them.

MAOA gene. 

The monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene has the strongest link between aggressiveness and a particular gene in people.

A high-functioning or low-functioning variant of the gene can be found in men who conduct almost all serious acts of violence. An intermediate version is also available for women.

This gene’s relative relevance stems from its role in controlling the activity of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine), which aid in mood regulation.

Men with the low-functioning variant of the gene are more likely to engage in violence and other antisocial behaviour if they were abused as children, according to several studies.

Even more recently, research participants with the low-functioning allele were shown to be more aggressive than those with the high-functioning version, but only when provoked, according to two independent laboratories. The fact that these research participants were mentally healthy university students is somewhat notable.

These findings show that persons with the MAOA gene’s low-functioning version may have a harder time managing their anger and violent behaviour. However, when it comes to a genetic predisposition to violence, our knowledge of the necessity of control is lacking.

While exposing them to provocation, some researchers photographed the brains of 38 males genotyped as having the high- or low-functioning gene. They allowed each of them to become comfortable in the scanner before insulting them by informing them in an angry tone that they had messed up our study.

The amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, two major brain areas involved in emotion and emotion regulation, were shown to be hyperactive in men with the low-functioning version.

This hyperactivation was not seen in men with a high-functioning variation. As a result, the degree of hyperactivation in these brain areas was linked to how hard individuals attempted to control their anger.

Although there is some evidence that the MAOA gene is linked to a higher risk of aggression, having the low-functioning variation is far from certain.

The low-functioning variation affects about 35-40% of the male population, yet only a small percentage of these males will go on to conduct a severe act of violence in their lives.

Genes may make up half of the tale, but they are only half of the story. They discovered that men with a low-functioning version of the MAOA gene have poor functioning in the emotional regulation brain network.

The low-functioning variant’s poor functioning may lead them to violent responses to provocation. People who have the high-functioning variety appear to be able to “brush it off” more easily.

It may someday be feasible to customise preventative programmes for individuals who need them most by discovering genes and brain systems that predispose people to the risk of being violent, even if the risk is modest.

Using genetic information to assist people to regulate anger and aggressiveness might tremendously benefit aggressive people and everyone around them, provided there is informed permission and protection from information exploitation.

Environment and experiences. 

However, genetics is only one part of the puzzle. There is an opposing viewpoint to the nature/nurture issue. Our surroundings, as well as how we are raised and how we choose to live, have a significant effect on how we behave.

According to psychotherapist Haley Neidich, “Children often mimic the coping mechanisms that they see their parents utilizing as parents are a child’s greatest teacher.” 

Neidich says that “individuals raised by parents who have poor regulation of their emotions are likely to have trouble controlling their emotions as well.”

Opponents of genetic explanations of social behaviour are frequently correct. Many personality traits are impacted only a little by genetics. 

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Can a temper be inherited?” and reviewed the various aspects of temper and genes to help determine whether a temper can be inherited. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Is temperament determined by genetics? MedlinePlus (2020, September 17). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/temperament/#:~:text=Scientists%20estimate%20that%2020%20to,that%20confer%20specific%20temperamental%20traits.

Denson, T. Temper trap: the genetics of aggression and self-control. (2014, May 6). Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/temper-trap-the-genetics-of-aggression-and-self-control-26110

Bennett, T. Are anger issues genetic? Can anger run in families? (2019, January 22). Retrieved from https://thriveworks.com/blog/are-some-people-genetically-prone-to-anger-can-anger-run-in-families/

Lytle, B. Is a bad temper genetic? (2015, October 19). Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/10/19/is-a-bad-temper-genetic/

Anger and Aggression in Women: Blame It On Genetics. University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2007, March 10). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070309103136.htm

Is anger a genetic thing you can inherit or pass on? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/Is-anger-a-genetic-thing-you-can-inherit-or-pass-on

Bowen, C. Can You Blame A Bad Temper On Your DNA? Maybe, Maybe Not. (2020, January 29). Retrieved from https://www.romper.com/p/is-a-bad-temper-hereditary-its-a-question-of-nature-vs-nurture-21752447

Denson, T. Temper trap: the genetics of aggression and self-control. (2014, May 7). Retrieved from https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science/temper-trap-genetics-aggression-and-self-control

Could Anger Be a Hereditary Trait? ABC News. (2006, January 6). Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=126141&page=1

Putting To Rest The “Anger Gene” Running In The Family. Carolina Counseling Services. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sanfordnccounseling.carolinacounselingservices.com/putting-to-rest-the-anger-gene-running-in-the-family/

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